Homeschooling or homeschool (also called home education or home based learning) is the education of children at home, typically by parents or by tutors, rather than in other formal settings of public or private school. Although prior to the introduction of compulsory school attendance laws, most childhood education occurred within the family or community, homeschooling in the modern sense is an alternative in developed countries to attending public or private schools. Homeschooling is a legal option for parents in many countries, allowing them to provide their children with a learning environment as an alternative to public or private schools outside the home.
Parents cite numerous reasons as motivations to homeschool their children. The three reasons that are selected by the majority of homeschooling parents in the United States are concern about the school environment, to provide religious or moral instruction, and dissatisfaction with academic instruction at public and private schools. Homeschooling may also be a factor in the choice of parenting style. Homeschooling can be an option for families living in isolated rural locations, living temporarily abroad, to allow for more traveling, while many young athletes and actors are taught at home. Homeschooling can be about mentorship and apprenticeship, where a tutor or teacher is with the child for many years and then knows the child very well.
Homeschooling can be used as a form of supplementary education, a way of helping children learn, in specific circumstances. For instance, children that attend downgraded schools can greatly benefit from homeschooling ways of learning, using the immediacy and low cost of the Internet. As a synonym to e-learning, homeschooling can be combined with traditional education and lead to better and more complete results. Homeschooling may also refer to instruction in the home under the supervision of correspondence schools or umbrella schools. In some places, an approved curriculum is legally required if children are to be home-schooled.A curriculum-free philosophy of homeschooling may be called unschooling, a term coined in 1977 by American educator and author John Holt in his magazine Growing Without Schooling. In some cases, a liberal arts education is provided using the trivium and quadrivium as the main model.
For much of history and in many cultures, enlisting professional teachers (whether as tutors or in a formal academic setting) was an option available only to a small elite. Thus, until relatively recently, the vast majority of people were educated by family members (especially during early childhood).
The earliest compulsory education in the West began in the late 17th century and early 18th century in the German states of Gotha, Calemberg and, particularly, Prussia. However, even in the 18th century, the vast majority of people in Europe lacked formal schooling, which means they were homeschooled or received no education at all.The same was also true for colonial America and for the United States until the 1850s.Formal schooling in a classroom setting has been the most common means of schooling throughout the world, especially in developed countries, since the early and mid 19th century. Native Americans, who traditionally used homeschooling and apprenticeship, vigorously resisted compulsory education in the United States.
In 1964, John Caldwell Holt published a book entitled How Children Fail which criticized traditional schools of the time. The book was based on a theory he had developed as a teacher – that the academic failure of schoolchildren was caused by pressure placed on children by adults. Holt began making appearances on major TV talk shows and writing book reviews for Life magazine In his follow-up work, How Children Learn, 1967, he tried to demonstrate the learning process of children and why he believed school short-circuits this process.
In these books Holt had not suggested any alternative to institutional schooling; he had hoped to initiate a profound rethinking of education to make schools friendlier toward children. As the years passed he became convinced that the way schools were was what society wanted, and that a serious re-examination was not going to happen in his lifetime.
Working in a similar vein was Rousas John Rushdoony who focused on education in America and was an advocate of homeschooling, which he saw as a way to combat the intentionally secular nature of the U.S. public school system. He vigorously attacked progressive school reformers such as Horace Mann and John Dewey and argued for the dismantling of the state's influence in education in three works: Intellectual Schizophrenia (a general and concise study of education), The Messianic Character of American Education (a history and castigation of public education in the U.S.), and The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum (a parent-oriented pedagogical statement). Rushdoony was frequently called as an expert witness by the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) in court cases.
During this time, the American educational professionals Raymond and Dorothy Moore began to research the academic validity of the rapidly growing Early Childhood Education movement. This research included independent studies by other researchers and a review of over 8,000 studies bearing on Early Childhood Education and the physical and mental development of children.
They asserted that formal schooling before ages 8–12 not only lacked the anticipated effectiveness, but was actually harmful to children. The Moores began to publish their view that formal schooling was damaging young children academically, socially, mentally, and even physiologically. They presented evidence that childhood problems such as juvenile delinquency, nearsightedness, increased enrollment of students in special education classes, and behavioral problems were the result of increasingly earlier enrollment of students. The Moores cited studies demonstrating that orphans who were given surrogate mothers were measurably more intelligent, with superior long term effects – even though the mothers were "mentally retarded teenagers" – and that illiterate tribal mothers in Africa produced children who were socially and emotionally more advanced than typical western children, "by western standards of measurement."
Their primary assertion was that the bonds and emotional development made at home with parents during these years produced critical long term results that were cut short by enrollment in schools, and could neither be replaced nor afterward corrected in an institutional setting. Recognizing a necessity for early out-of-home care for some children – particularly special needs and starkly impoverished children, and children from exceptionally inferior homes– they maintained that the vast majority of children are far better situated at home, even with mediocre parents, than with the most gifted and motivated teachers in a school setting (assuming that the child has a gifted and motivated teacher). They described the difference as follows: "This is like saying, if you can help a child by taking him off the cold street and housing him in a warm tent, then warm tents should be provided for all children – when obviously most children already have even more secure housing."
Similar to Holt, the Moores embraced homeschooling after the publication of their first work, Better Late Than Early, 1975, and went on to become important homeschool advocates and consultants with the publication of books like Home Grown Kids, 1981, Homeschool Burnout, and others.
At the time, other authors published books questioning the premises and efficacy of compulsory schooling, including Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich, 1970 and No More Public School by Harold Bennet, 1972.
In 1976, Holt published Instead of Education; Ways to Help People Do Things Better. In its conclusion, he called for a "Children's Underground Railroad" to help children escape compulsory schooling. In response, Holt was contacted by families from around the U.S. to tell him that they were educating their children at home. In 1977, after corresponding with a number of these families, Holt began producing Growing Without Schooling, a newsletter dedicated to home education.
In 1980, Holt said, "I want to make it clear that I don't see homeschooling as some kind of answer to badness of schools. I think that the home is the proper base for the exploration of the world which we call learning or education. Home would be the best base no matter how good the schools were." Holt later wrote a book about homeschooling, Teach Your Own, in 1981.
One common theme in the homeschool philosophies of both Holt and the Moores is that home education should not be an attempt to bring the school construct into the home, or a view of education as an academic preliminary to life. They viewed it as a natural, experiential aspect of life that occurs as the members of the family are involved with one another in daily living.